Taiwan's Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation (AIDC) with Lockheed Martin has started to upgrade the first four 144 F-16A/B fighters to the latest F-16V standard.
The NT$110 billion (US$3.47 billion) Phoenix Rising Project aims to upgrade all the F-16A/Bs to F-16Vs. The entire fleet is to be upgraded by 2023, Taipei Times reported today.
An upgrade of the nation’s fleet of F-16 jets began, with four of the aircraft flown to a plant in Taichung to undergo retrofitting. The four warplanes are the first batch to be upgraded to F-16Vs, an enhanced variant of the F-16A/B, of which the nation has a fleet of 144.
Taiwan is to be the first nation worldwide to have a fleet of F-16Vs, which Minister of National Defense Feng Shih-kuan said could match China’s Chengdu J-20 stealth fighter.
AIDC and US aerospace firm Lockheed Martin Corp, the original producer of F-16s, were awarded the contract to carry out the upgrades.
Lockheed Martin in 2015 completed the upgrade and test flight of an F-16 owned by Taiwan but stationed at a US Air Force base.
AIDC is responsible for carrying out the retrofitting program in Taiwan, with the first four F-16Vs expected to be upgraded by the end of this year.
“AIDC is to complete the upgrade of 25 to 28 F-16s every year and the air force’s entire fleet, including 10 F-16s stationed at a US base will be upgraded by 2023,” Republic of China Air Force Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Fan Ta-wei’s said at a legislative session in November.
The upgraded aircraft are to be fitted with active electronically scanned array fire-control radar — the most important feature of the upgrade — which enables F-16Vs to detect stealth aircraft.
The F-16Vs are also to be equipped with advanced avionics, including a new flight management system and helmet-mounted display system, and the upgraded jets would carry more advanced missiles, such as AIM-9X Sidewinders.
With a radar system on a par with those of fifth-generation fighters, the F-16Vs are expected to shoulder the nation’s air defense for the next two decades.